A student dropped by my office yesterday to tell me about what happened to him a few days ago. He was walking along the street that borders the north of our campus, and he was walking while black. An older SUV with a Confederate flag waving from behind approached him, and the passenger leaned out his window and yelled, “GO HOME MUSLIM!” Without missing a beat, the student replied, “I’M BLACK! YOU BE HATIN’ THE WRONG WAY!”
I’ve been reading the diatribe-infused comment sections on all the press about DSU’s identity change. I can’t help myself. It’s like a multi-car pile up where everyone thinks someone else is to blame and I just can’t turn away. It’s embarrassing, especially when I read, “I’m an ulum (sic) of Dixie…” or “They should just accept our meaning…” or “They’re gonna take away the temple next.”
Attitudes like these are empirical evidence of the failure of higher learning in Southern Utah. If this institution had condoned in any way that its own symbols and icons of the confederacy did not speak to the larger, universal meaning to the same outside of Utah’s Dixie, it failed. If Dixie College did not teach within its Liberal Arts curricula concepts on tolerance, the Civil Rights movement, equality and diversity, just to name a few, it has failed. The evidence is in the vitriol that laces the threads and forums every time this issue comes up.
By definition, I’m a Rebel. My ancestor, John R. Young, whose name appears on the Encampment Mall monument, was among the original settlers. I’m an alumnus of Dixie College. I’ve been teaching here since 1996. But, given the lack of racial civility both here and abroad, I am not proud of the Dixie name.
I am proud, though, of that student. While his response is indicative of his inherent wit, I’d like to tag him as an indication of what institutional success might look like.